Does the demonic realm exist? Is there a real personality named Satan? Does he have minions or legions of demons advancing his desire to usurp God’s authority? Can individuals be demon oppressed? Can individuals be demon possessed? Are most in this world lusting, thinking, speaking, walking, and living in accordance with Lucifer’s will? Exactly how widespread is his influence?
I will tell you that from my own experience, Satan exists and men can be demon possessed. During my college years, I worked as a lifeguard and counselor at a Christian camp. During an evening worship service, I witnessed a young man who went wild during the sermon. He fled the building, was ultimately tackled by his counselor, and as the counselor lay atop the young man seeking to keep him from fleeing farther and harming himself, the most awful guttural voice came forth. A group of us prayed; the evil spirit left; the young man called upon Christ; he then fell limp. I have only seen this once, but I will never forget that heavy experience.
However, I will also tell you that from Matthew’s viewpoint Satan exists and men can be demon possessed. The inspired Gospel writer tells of two men who were possessed by demons. They were not merely intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics. They were not just unstable men suffering from severe personality disorders. No, in this account, these two men had a plurality of demons dwelling within. Here is Matthew’s historical account:
And when he came to the other side, to the country of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men met him, coming out of the tombs, so fierce that no one could pass that way. And behold, they cried out, “What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?” Now a herd of many pigs was feeding at some distance from them. And the demons begged him, saying, “If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.” And he said to them, “Go.” So they came out and went into the pigs, and behold, the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the waters. The herdsmen fled, and going into the city they told everything, especially what had happened to the demon-possessed men. And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:28-34)
These men show the horrific end-game of Lucifer.
1. They lacked cleanliness. They were filthy dirty.
2. They lacked clothing. These demon-influenced men were naked, and they were so void of character that they walked about without shame. It bothered them not that they lacked modesty and exposed their bodies.
3. They lacked compassion. Instead of being known for neighborly love, they were noted for their ferocious anger and violence. No one could interact with them without fearing some sort of harm.
4. They lacked community. Their satanic possession resulted in their being unloved and unliked. And as they progressed in their depravity, these two men became more and more isolated, lonely, and miserable.
5. They lacked contentment. There was no shalom in their life. The Gospel of Mark tells us they were unable to sleep at night. So instead of sleep, they endured the dark hours by yelling and screaming. Ultimately, they sought to work out their frustrations by cutting and bruising themselves with stones.
6. They lacked control. No longer were they masters over their minds, wills, desires, tongues, and bodies. Consequently, they had no possibility of self-renewal and personal improvement. They were slaves to their sinful master. They were totally unable to make progress in the right direction.
However, those these men were harmed, harmful, hideous, and hurting, they were not without hope. The Wonderful Counselor and Great Physician was coming their way. And when their spiritual therapy session was completed, these men were made clean, clothed, compassionate, communing, contented, and self-controlled. They were reformed. They were regenerated. They were sanctified. They were made new, and the desires of the Evil One were no longer their dominating influence. They became disciples of Christ and worshipers of the Living God.
Therefore friends, do we see the end-game of Satan? He does not want us to be happy. Instead he desires that we be like Adam and Eve when they were being booted out of the garden. He enjoys seeing us like Jonah going down under the waves. He relishes seeing us like Judas swinging from a tree, or like Ananias and Sapphira in their meeting with the elders. Satan delights in seeing drunks lying in the gutter. With glee he watches a gambler lose his money, house, job and marriage. He finds joy in seeing the smoker breathing through a lung machine, and special delight is experienced by him when the teenage girl finds herself pregnant and visiting the abortion clinic. Lucifer promises fun with one hand, but with the other he imparts a fateful blow. No, Satan is not man’s friend. He may pretend to be so as he did with Adam in the Garden and with Jesus in the wilderness. He is often found whispering sweet nothings in man’s ear. However, his intent is the same as a pedophile seeking to abuse a child. He holds out lollipops to intended victims luring them to his car, not in hopes of providing fun, joy and pleasure, but with gruesome and fatal intent in mind. Friends, Satan has nothing good in store for those created in God’s image. He sings and dances when men hurt most. His smile broadens as women cry for help and pant for relief.
So, are you demon possessed? Have you played with the dark side and encouraged communion with the devil? Are you like Judas? If so, there is good news and hope in Jesus. Perhaps he is coming to you in this devotional. Perhaps he will meet you at church this Sunday. When you find Jesus, he can immediately fix what has troubled you for years. Fall on your knees. Confess your newfound desire. And worship as he makes you new.
Or, are you demon influenced? When you look back at your genealogical record, do you find Noah and Adam on the list? If so, you are a born rebel who in your natural condition is inclined to follow the world, the flesh, and the devil. Consider the following teaching from Scripture and the Westminster Confession of Faith:
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)
Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. (Matthew 13:36-40, 36)
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:8-10)
Our first parents, being seduced by the subtilty and temptation of Satan, sinned, in eating the forbidden fruit … By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity … From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God … doth … bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal. (WCF 6)
All men are not demon possessed, but all men are demonically influenced. All are totally depraved enemies of God. But there is good news for you. Scripture and history are filled with men and women who have been rescued from their sinful bondage. Call upon Christ. Repent of your sin. Pledge your allegiance to the Savior who died upon a Roman cross for evil men and women like you. Join the brotherhood of saints who deserve hell but will enjoy paradise forever. And then enjoy making progress in holiness as you walk in newness of life for the remainder of your days on this earth.
Or, are you demon oppressed? Believers may not be possessed, but unbelievers are fair-game. Even Jesus Christ found himself tempted by the devil, and this is the present-day reality of all who seek to walk with Christ:
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy … (John 10:10)
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
You ought never forget that this world is filled with devils who long to diminish your worship and testimony. You are called to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ. You are called to wage the good warfare. Daily, focus on the Word of God and prayer. Regularly, keep step with the Spirit and give no place for the devil. And find great confidence in the victorious promises of God:
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)